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Biography: Paddy Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown


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Lord Paddy Ashdown is an internationally respected keynote and conference speaker whose vast knowledge of international politics and strategic issues make him a fascinating and erudite speaker.

Background and career

Paddy Ashdown was born in New Delhi in 1941, the eldest of seven children. At 4 years old, his family returned to Britain to a farm in Ulster. Between 1959 and 1972 he served in the Royal Marines and saw active service as a Commando Officer in Borneo and the Persian Gulf. After Special Forces Training in England in 1965, he commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East. He went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time course in Chinese, returning to the United Kingdom in 1970, where he was given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.

In 1972, Paddy left the Royal Marines and joined the Foreign Office. He was posted to the British Mission to the United Nations in Geneva where he was responsible for Britain's relations with a number of UN organisations and took part in the negotiation of several international treaties and agreements between 1974 and 1976, including aspects of the European Security Conference (the Helsinki Conference). After leaving the Foreign Office Paddy worked in industry in South-West England between 1976 and 1981 and in 1981 went to work as a Youth Worker with the Dorset County Council Youth Service, with responsibility for initiatives to help the young unemployed.

"Thank you so much for your support and contribution to our leadership conference last week. Your presentation...was truly memorable. I particularly appreciated the way you were able to convey your simple but very powerful insights as you recounted the story of your own success. A great number of these...resonated for Unum's leadership group."

He stood as the Liberal Parliamentary candidate for the Yeovil constituency in 1979, raising the Liberal vote there to its highest ever level. Shortly after entering the UK Parliament in the 1983 General Election, Paddy became the Liberal spokesman for Trade and Industry within the Liberal/SDP Alliance team in the House of Commons and went on to be Education spokesman four years later. He was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrats in July 1988 and appointed as a Privy Councillor in January 1989. In the 1997 General Election he further increased his majority in his Yeovil constituency to over 11,000. Paddy stood down as the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1999 and retired from the Commons in 2001. He was made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2000 and a Life Peer in 2001. Lord Ashdown was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in the 2006 New Year Honours List for his work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paddy was one of the leading and most vocal advocates for decisive action by the international community. He argued strongly that this would help bring the conflict to an early close, and that this was in the interests of all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina whatever their ethnic background. He visited the country many times during the conflict and subsequently. Lord Ashdown was the UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina from May 2002 until January 2006. Paddy now sits in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat peer.

In 2000 and 2001 Penguin Books published two volumes of The Ashdown Diaries, to critical acclaim. Paddy has since written other books including To Build a State, a book examining the challenges of nation-building in a post-conflict environment and bringing stability to destabilised and lawless spaces and 'Swords and Ploughshares: Bringing Peace to the 21st Century'. He lectures and speaks to audiences worldwide on a variety of international and strategic issues.

Speaking Topics

Lord Ashdown, a former Special Forces Commando, and one the UK’s most influential politicians, is a charming and erudite after dinner speaker.

  • After dinner speaker
  • Politics and current affairs

For further information or to book Paddy Ashdown, call us at Speakers Corner on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email info@speakerscorner.co.uk

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